on May 7, 2000
This is not a film that I watch very often but "In the Name of the Father" is still one of my favorites. The reason I am not watching it regularly is that it is quite disturbing. It is loosely based on the true story of the Guildford four. A group of young people jailed for the bombing of the Guildford pub in London back in 1974.
"In the Name of the Father" tells the story from the point of view of Gerry Conlon, played by Daniel Day-Lewis. Gerry starts out as a young man in Ireland. He is an unemployed lout who makes a little money on the side by stealing lead lining off neighborhood roofs. He is forced to leave Belfast due to the IRA's disapproval of his thieving activities.
Once in London, Gerry and his friend Paul Hill move into a squat with a group of other flower children. It is not long before Gerry and Paul have to move out of their new home due to friction over one of the young ladies' relationship with Gerry. This leaves both Paul and Gerry in a public park on the night that the Guildford Pub is bombed.
To make matters worse, the jilted boyfriend of the aforementioned young lady, goes to the police to finger Gerry and Paul as suspicious Irishmen. This is an opportunity too good to miss for Inspector Pavis. He is under great pressure to bring the guilty parties to justice.
The next thing we know Gerry, three of his friends and the larger portion of his family have been arrested, tried and jailed. Only just short of being a kangaroo court, the prosecutor paints them as a vicious IRA cell. The atmosphere is such that even the flimsiest of evidence is seen as damning proof of their guilt.
Up until this point in the film the story is told in retrospect, from many years after the event, by Gerry as he languishes in prison with his Father, Giuseppe. He is telling the story for a new barrister, Gareth Peirce, played by Emma Thompson. She is keen to have a retrial. The trouble is that Gerry is so cynical about English justice by this time, that he needs a lot of encouragement in order for him to participate.
The rest of the film shows us, one layer at a time, all of the deceptions that led to the original convictions. False witnesses, false evidence, hidden testimonies, forced confessions and even the cover up of the confession of the real bomber. It all comes to a head in court, but not before the death of Giuseppe Conlon in prison, despite a compassionate appeal for early release. We also see Gerry's transformation from a callow youth into a dedicated campaigner for justice.
What makes this film so disturbing is that the same forces that contributed to this outrageous perversion of justice are alive and well today. The passion with which the public calls for the conviction of anyone that is accused of a brutal crime, is equally as vivid now as it was then. It should not matter how brutal a crime is, we should call for the truth, not just revenge. And so we are left with the knowledge that history will repeat itself and probably is doing so at this very moment.
on February 20, 2002
This is a powerful story, and watching it absolutely wrings you out. You should see this movie, because the story is so emotional. You should also see it because of the quality of the acting. Daniel Day-Lewis' and Pete Postlethwaite's performances are so raw and perfectly understated that they make the film seem like the reality the story is based on.
Readers can get the gist of the plot from other reviews here, but there are a few remarks that should be made.
In this post-September 11 world, it should be noted that the thing that enabled these injustices was a bill that allowed British officials to hold suspected terrorists for up to 7 days without charging them. This gave these officers all the time they needed to beat and intimidate Conlon into confessing something he didn't do. The kind of power such a bill provides requires more responsibility than this.
While the British government does come out looking very bad in this film, it must be fairly pointed out that you can see why these officers were initially convinced of the Four's guilt: they had been lied to by someone who disliked Gerry Conlon. Naturally, at first, the police thought the Four were just lying to evade prosecution. However, much later in the film, we see that Conlon's innocence had been proven to at least some of the officers a month or so after his arrest. However, this was concealed from the rest of the judicial system, and the Four were still incarcerated.
I have to mention that some of the most powerful moments in the film actually come from Pete Postlethwaite's performance as Giuseppe Conlon. His attempts, while in the middle of these horrible circumstances, to draw closer to his son are so genuine and heartfelt that it makes you want to cry. This gentle, nice man's life was surrendered to these injustices, and all the while he still tried to teach his son to be good, to be honest, and to have ethics - in other words, to be a man.
There has been some commentary as to whether the Guildford Four were really innocent. It should be stated here that the judge who released them - chief justice Lord Lane - stated that he felt the police involved in the case "must have lied." Also, aside from an official apology from Tony Blair, the British government has made financial restitution to the Four. I think that's enough to decide that they were probably innocent.
While occasionally seeming over-dramatized - like all films based on factual events - this movie succeeds in riveting you to the screen. This is a good rendering of events that prove how tragedies can occur when you have people with too much power and not enough conscience.
Gerry Conlon (Danie Day Lewis) was not an upstanding youth. He was a petty thief and layabout with little future. He was innocent, however, of the bombing of a London pub which killed four people in 1974. That did not stop an English court, however, from sending him, his father, and several other innocent men to prison.
What makes this story so compelling is that it is true. Conlon really did serve 15 years in a British prison for a crime he did not commit. His conviction was finally overturned in 1989, upon the revelation that evidence which proved his innocence was deliberately withheld by the government.
This film shows several chilling scenes where Conlon is psychologically and physically abused until he finally breaks down and confesses to the crime. He, along with the others, is then sentenced to a long prison term. As the presiding judge tells him, "I only wish I could sentence you to death."
After Gonlon and his father Giuseppe (Pete Postlethwaite) enter prison in when the film's best moments come. The way that the relationship between father and son grows and matures is a pleasure to watch. This is one of the most compelling and moving displays of father/son love that I have ever seen in a film. The acting by these two men is nothing short of brilliant.
Emma Thompson is also quite effective as the English defense attorney who works for their release. This is just another entry in a seemingly endless string of excellent performances by this gifted actress. She is an amazing talent.
Much was made when this film was first released of the liberties that writer-director Jim Sheridan took with the actual facts of the case. That may well be true, but for the purposes of the film it is not really relevant. This is not a documentary or journalistic report, and the facts are close enough. It is a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging film.
"In the Name of the Father" is a brilliant and controversial movie which examines in some detail the case of the Guildford Four, and especially the case of Gerry and Giuseppe Conlon, who were wrongly convicted of bombing a pub in the town of Guildford, England, on October 5, 1974. This bombing, which took the lives of several innocent victims, was alleged to be part of an ongoing Irish Republican Army (IRA) campaign of terror that year. The convictions of the Guildford Four, it was later proved, were based on forced confessions, perjured testimony, and - at best - extremely scanty and questionable forensic evidence.
"In the Name of the Father" is a brilliant film on all levels. Daniel Day-Lewis turns in a tough, gritty, and realistic performance as the irrepressible Gerry Conlon - perhaps one of Day-Lewis' least known, but best movie performances ever. Pete Postlethwaite is magnificent as the gentle Giuseppe Conlon, who is the film's ultimate victim. And Emma Thompson rises to her usual level of brilliant acting as the tough-minded but emotional lawyer, Gareth Peirce.
This movie does not pretend at any point to be an objective examination of the Guildford Four case. It is a strong advocate for the innocence of the people involved, and an unsparing critic of the British legal and penal systems. Some of the points made in the film border on the hyperbolic - for example, the interjection of the fictional IRA terrorist "Joe McAndrew," to press home the point that the British government knew of the Guildford Four's innocence, but, fearing a loss of confidence by the British public, chose to ignore evidence which exonerated them. Still, the film does not suffer any loss of credibility by so blatantly taking sides in such a politically and emotionally charged issue.
This is one of those rare films which does three things very well. First: it entertains. This is a dramatic and exciting story, replete with wonderfully realistic characters that are easy to understand and relate to. Second: "In the Name of the Father" educates. Very seldom have I learned more about a particular time or set of circumstances than I have from this film. (I must note at this point that I was living in England in 1989 when this case came to a head. I followed news accounts of it with great interest.) Third: the movie persuades. It is both a scathing criticism of a legal and penal system gone awry, and an apt description of what can happen when a democratic system becomes afraid of its own people. At the same time, it's a wonderfully inspiring testimony to the ultimate strength of the human spirit in times when all seems nearly lost.
on February 9, 2005
Three films that stand out in terms of explaining the movement of the Irish Republican Army are Michael Collins, Bloody Sunday and The Name of the Father, viewed in that order. Michael Collins explains the 1916 Irish Rising against British rule and the subsequent assassination of Collins for making a deal with the British to allow them to keep the North, a problem that still exists to this day, albeit calmed down somewhat because of the peace agreements. Bloody Sunday is about the armed assault by British Paratroopers that shot up a catholic peace protest in 1972. It is like watching Saving Private Ryan in the streets. That court case is still ongoing today. The Name of the Father is in Britain and is worth seeing again because of new events.
In 2005 The Prime Minister apologised for one of the worst miscarriages of British justice - the jailing those accused of the Guilford IRA bombings. This film is about what happened. Eleven people sent to prison over the attacks in Guildford and Woolwich in 1974. They were subject to such a horrific political ordeal and a deep miscarriage of injustice. The wrongly convicted were members and friends of two Irish families living in the UK at the time - the Conlons and Maguires. Although the Conlon father and son never did meet in prison (like they do in the film) it is still pretty much an accurate portrayal or police brutality and the corruption of the justice system.
In many ways the film has been deemed "inappropriate" along side other films such a "Bloody Sunday" because apparently they do not add anything of value to restoring peace, but the truth is that this kind of material has been censored in Ireland and the UK until the 1990s when for the first time the party of Sinn Fein was allowed a voice to represent Catholics in Northern Ireland - Jerry Adams was actually allowed to appear on the news and talk.
The problem is that the government is not responsible for the courts which allowed people to be subjected to the kind of ordeal that these two families went through, scapegoats for a political body that wanted to keep censoring the full extent of the troubles in the North.
This is a well-made movie with some great acting. Riveting stuff through and through and one of the best prison/court dramas who can get your hands on. In light of the Prime Minister's apology, this is work looking into again.
on March 16, 2005
During a spate of IRA-triggered bombings in the early 1970s in the UK, the beleaguered British government created a haphazard "Prevention of Terrorism Act" which allowed the arrest of any individual on the flimsiest of suspicions.
When explosions rocked two pubs in Guildford (London?) a group of four Irish junkies -- Gerry Conlon (Daniel Day Lewis) and three others -- were wrongfully arrested in what we are led to believe was a miscarriage of justice.
The movie is based on Gerry's memoirs, so it cannot be passed off as impeccably "factual" but if some memories have been bent into formulaic shape for entertainment purposes, the truth still remains: these people were not murdering masterminds.
There are really two stories working in the film:
(1) The steamrolling of the "Guildford Four" by the British government; and
(2) The atavistic relationship between Gerry and his father Guiseppe while the two were in prison
Each of these stories would have made a taut and fascinating film by itself, but combined they're an incredible force. Gerry's interrogation is an immemorable moment in cinematic history, including disconcerting scenes of police officials watching the torture in silence.
The film doesn't let up for a moment. The courtroom drama is clearly peripheral to the theme, but it provides some of the film's most nailbiting moments. A few bits in the latter half of the movie may seem a bit redundant (similar things happening over and over again in prison) all that is obscured by the sheer screen presence of Daniel Day Lewis. In fact, the only time you are not riveted by the all-round powerhouse acting is when U2's poignant background score has taken center stage.
An absolute must for fans of political films, and a terrific drama for the rest of us. Highly recommended.
on October 6, 2002
I must admit, I encountered a major stumbling block in trying to watch this movie. All I can say is if you have as much trouble understanding heavy Irish accents as I do, watching a subtitled edition of this film might be a good idea.
That's my problem, though, not the film's. In the Name of the Father isn't quite as dead serious as its cover suggests. While its soaring emotional peaks are just phenomenally powerful and its messages ring clear and true, the film also contains enough offbeat humour to make it a well-rounded experience.
Daniel Day-Lewis gives a searing performance as Gerry Conlon, an Irish drifter wrongly accused of terrorism and imprisoned, a victim of a police conspiracy. Day-Lewis, an Oscar-winning actor who has done only five films in the '90s, gives his signature dedication, enormous charisma, and sense of humour to the role, and he is no less than amazing in any given scene. Pete Postlethwaite rises to the challenge as Conlon's father Guiseppe, a complete opposite to the deliciously diabolical turn he gave in The Usual Suspects. Here Postlethwaite is warm, complex, and painfully human, with all the strengths and vulnerabilities attached. And director Jim Sheridan's narrative voice is highly eccentric but engaging; the film moves in lurches and spurts, often with major plot points occuring very suddenly. Strangely enough, I was never lost. And Emma Thompson's work, when it finally surfaces (her character is mostly relegated to the last third of the film), is terrific as well, helping to anchor the final developments in the story.
One of my favourite points about this film is that, while it vilifies the British characters, it also does not scorn to show their side of the story. The opening scene of the bombing grounds our awareness in the fact that, despite their incredibly brutal and unjust tactics, the police are simply crumbling under the pressure and trying to hide their folly, not plotting for the destruction of our central characters. Such moral complexities help enrich the thematic elements of the film, always a desireable thing when it comes to politically charged material such as this.
You'll need to be patient with this film to enjoy it -- because of its two-hour-plus running length, the dense, accented dialogue, and idiosyncratic narrative approach -- but I am sure you will find it an emotionally resonant and relevant film, as I have.
on March 21, 2006
I am quickly becoming aware of the power that Jim Sheridan has behind the camera as well as in crafting genuine non-Hollywood films. As I watched In the Name of the Father unfold, I continually was impressed by the passionate camera angles, the conviction of the characters, and Sheridan's ability not to sway from his own personal heritage. He is a master storyteller. After watching this film, I am not afraid to confirm it. From the opening sequences of this film to the amazing direction to the dedicated actors, I knew that In the Name of the Father was going to be more than just your typical political "courtroom" drama. It wasn't until the film was finished that I realized Sheridan's power. I speak very highly of him in the opening of this review because I believe that if any other director would have been at the helm of this project that the final cut would not have been as immaculate. Typically with films of this nature we, as audience members, fall prey to there needing to be some sympathy for the opposing country. The British did unfairly treat the Irish in this film, but I believe any other director would have chosen a neutral ground instead of forging headfirst like Sheridan chose to do. I believe any other director would have focused more perversely on the courtroom drama aspect of this film instead of the compelling family epic that was being forged within the walls of Gerry's prison. Because of Sheridan, the masterpiece known as In the Name of the Father was crafted with genuine passion and superb direction.
What initially struck me as pivotal in this film were the actors. For a film of this high of emotion and intensity to work, there needed to be key players involved that knew how to handle the truthfulness of it all. Sheridan hit a bulls-eye with Daniel Day-Lewis in the key role of Gerry Conlon (which I think most directors do when they choose to hire one of our greatest cinematic heroes), but it was the surprise performance by the typical secondary character actor Pete Postlethwaite that shook me to the core. I have seen quite a bit of films that used the talent of Pete Postlethwaite, but I must admit, this is the first time that I have seen him take control of his character and give it his full devotion. Perhaps it was the dedication that Daniel Day-Lewis had to his character that rubbed onto the other actors, or again, maybe it was just the skillful direction of Jim Sheridan, but I will be the first to say that Postlethwaite stole this film. He didn't just capture the individual scenes in which he was present, but he embodied this entire film. He successfully portrayed the ultimate father figure. The man that many of us would look up to with admiring respect. Postlethwaite's father figure was there for his son, he put himself in danger for his son, and most importantly he taught his son the truth of the world. He was phenomenal in the small role that eventually captured the entire film. It is the belief of this reviewer that Pete should have been awarded for an Oscar for this role, instead of Tommy Lee Jones. I was also impressed with John Lynch whom I had only seen in some smaller roles since this. He fully embodied the frightened youth that didn't know better than to finger his friends to save his life. Then there was Emma Thompson. I do not believe I have seen her in a "bad" role yet. She was subtle in this film. She didn't try to dominate her scenes, but instead be a helpful part to the eventual emotional ending. Her role was short, sweet, and to the point, which I think is another prime example of why Sheridan's direction is so acute.
Strong direction. Strong acting. One could say that the rest could have been rubbish and I still would have enjoyed it. Not true. With both of these elements in place, I needed to make sure that Sheridan wasn't cutting corners. I have not read Proved Innocent, but I do not think that Sheridan went too far off course with his adaptation. The story is what kept me glued to the screen. I knew from the awards that In the Name of the Father was honored with that it was great in the direction and acting respects, but it wasn't until I watched the entire film that I realized the power of the story. We don't watch Gerry grow up. We don't see his dysfunctional relationship with his father. We don't see the impeding chaos in Britain. We don't see a lot of back items that would have taken this film into the three-hour zone. Instead, Sheridan crops the film into three distinct moments. Those are Gerry prior to jail, Gerry and his father in jail, and finally, Gerry gaining the wisdom from his father. I enjoyed the fact that Sheridan didn't focus so intently on the trial, but instead the growth of Gerry and the developing relationship between him and father. It was like watching a child grow before our eyes. The only disappointment that I had with the overall story was the quickness of the ending. I do believe Sheridan could have traveled it out for another twenty minutes to give us the full effect of the climactic courtroom scene, or those moments when Gerry decides to learn about British law himself. I just felt that the last half-hour seemed to fly by because there were so many loose ends to tighten. If it weren't for this mad sprint at the end, I believe Sheridan would have had a flawless masterpiece.
Overall, I thought this film (despite the quickness of the ending) was engrossing to watch and exciting to see. It frightened me to watch it in a post-9/11 world because it makes us question our current government's hastiness to find answers and make executive decisions. It makes you wonder about the detainees of Iraq and if we, as a nation, are not discovering that our government is jailing the innocent. Living in today's society and watching this film, it spoke to me on two levels. Sheridan successfully brings the emotions of aggravation and frustration to the peak of the screen with the events surrounding the Conlon family. He makes you feel for these innocent bystanders living in a corrupt nation. It spoke to me on that level as I am probably one of those simpletons watching innocent people jailed for no reason outside of probably "oil" prices. The second level was that of family. It made me happy to have the father that I currently have and appreciate the wisdom that he has handed down to me. Family is one of the most important elements in your life, and I believe that what Sheridan was trying to demonstrate with this film is that until you accept that, you will never find stability and security. What an amazing film!
Grade: **** out of *****
on August 5, 1999
This movie will leave you thinking about it for days after you first view it. Don't be discouraged for its seemingly lighthearted begining with Daniel Day-Lewis and friends running around. It becomes very serious when Day-Lewis and friends are picked up and accused of bombing a pub. The scene with Day-Lewis being forced to admit to the bombing is so incrediable. His acting is just magnificent and he should have one the Academy Award for it. He cries and acts as if it's really happening to him in real life and his acting gave me goosebumps as I watched it. My favorite and I think most dramatic scene in the movie is where him and his father are together in the cell before the trial and Day-Lewis goes off and tells his dad what he really has been going through all of his life. The line "I've been like this since I was seven", said when he was discribing how he felt to his father, just touched me so strongly that I couldn't help thinking that it was his real dad he was talking to and he really felt that way about him. This movie is one of my favorites and I often think about it to this day and I still can't believe that it was a true story. I'm only 15, but please listen when I recommend this to anyone who loves a good drama and the convincing and moving acting of Daniel Day-Lewis that accompanies him with every movie he's ever been in. YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS!!!!!!
Gerry Conlon (Daniel Day Lewis) was a small-time petty thief in the early seventies and found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time when IRA terrorists bombed a pub in 1974 - killing 4 people.
Totally innocent, Conlon is treated with contempt - even physically tortured and terrorized until he confesses only to make the torture stop.
Soon his father and most of his family are also convicted of bomb making and being part of larger conspiracies including being deeply entrenched in the IRA.
His father Giuseppe (played masterfully by Pete Postlethwaite) and most of his family are also rounded up and promptly convicted - from the youngest cousin to an elderly grandmother - all wrongly convicted and sent to bleak, dank prisons for very lengthy terms.
What makes this so compelling and tragic is that this is entirely a true story. Conlon really served 15 years in prison and thanks to his diligent attorney and the discovery of withheld evidence that freed him in 1989 - otherwise he may well still be languishing in jail, with little sympathy from the outside.
The only good side of this horrific twist of justice was the closeness Gerry ends up having with his father. Once somewhat distant, they find themselves as unwilling cellmates in prison. As miserable as they both are at the situation, the fact that they can keep each other company is a bittersweet comfort.
They grow closer than they likely would have ever gotten had they not been imprisoned together. Compounded by age and the damp, awful conditions of the prison, Giuseppe finds himself sicker and sicker until he is finally taken to the hospital all too late. Gerry is not permitted to be at his father's side as he is taken to the hospital, only to find out later that his father has died, leaving Gerry alone with no one to console his broken heart.
The injustice done to the "Guildford Four" in a small way was a necessary evil, in that it so shocked the conscience of British common man, that many reforms were put in to place to help prevent this sort of thing from happening again.
While Emma Thompson's character (Conlon's lawyer) doesn't make an appearance until near the end of the story, her presence is powerful and an important balance for the film.
Only someone with the stoniest of hearts will not feel at least a lump in their throat at many scenes of this well acted, compelling, real-life drama - nor will you finish watching it and not be changed in some way.